Stressed? Low energy? The answer is Thync

Who knew sending electrical pulses down your trigeminal nerve could feel so good?

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Stressed? Of course you are.

Do you find it hard to chill without a drink or three in the evening? Yep, that’s pretty common when you’re dealing with the kind of pressures IT professionals are often under.

And then what about when you get up in the morning? Are you low on energy?

How about when it’s 2pm and you’re flagging and there’s the prospect of having to pull an all-nighter to roll out the new whatever-it-is you’re wrestling with? Do you turn to endless cups of coffee or, the gods forfend, do you down endless energy drinks until you have a caffeine high that makes you vibrate like a tuning fork? 

Want a better way to deal with stress and low energy? I have an intriguing answer: You need to Thync.

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The Thync "puck"

The Thync (made by Thync) is a small, lightweight, triangular, rechargeable “puck” that you snap onto an adhesive electrode “strip” and affix over your right eye (it makes you looks vaguely piratical). If your goal is to be energized, you use a “energy” strip that reaches just far enough place the electrode behind your right ear; if the goal is relaxation, you use a “calm” strip which is long enough to allow the electrode to be placed on the back of your neck.

The strips are guaranteed for single use only though you can use them multiple times with the risk that they may become detached or simply not provide a good contact (the Thync system detects and warns you when contact is lost). 

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Thync vibe strips

With a strip in place, you then initiate one of the appropriate programs - Thync calls these programs “vibes” - using a smartphone app (iOS 8+ or Android Lollipop or Marshmallow are supported) which communicates with the puck via Bluetooth. The puck applies a current of a few milliamps between the opposite ends of the strip at varying power and frequency levels and … and we’ll get to that in a minute.

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Icky drawing of the trigeminal nerve (the ophthalmic nerve is the top branch in yellow and below that is the maxillary nerve)

When you use an energy vibe, the Thync is thought to stimulate the trigeminal ophthalmic and maxillary cranial nerves while a calm vibe affects the trigeminal ophthalmic cranial nerve and the C2 and C3 cervical spinal nerves. The stimulation is described as electrical “neurosignaling” (note that this is not the same as Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation). Here’s Thync’s explanation of how it works:

A soothing neck massage. A splash of cold water. A kiss from someone you love. Each action influences peripheral nerves in your head and face, signaling brain regions to change the way you feel. Thync works using the same pathways by delivering low-level electrical pulses to these nerves. Every day, your body balances the activity between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system is associated with a "fight or flight" response to help regulate your reaction to stress. The parasympathetic system counteracts stress to help you enter a relaxed "rest and digest" mode. Thync uses neurosignaling to activate specific cranial and peripheral nerves to influence this balance and shift you to a state of calm or give you a boost of energy in minutes.

Is it safe? Thync thinks so:

The Thync system is a safe and low-risk device. It is not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or medical condition. If you are susceptible to Reflex Syncope (fainting) for example, as a result of donating blood, getting a shot or due to anxiety then please consult your physician before purchasing a Thync System. Based on intended use and output characteristics, the FDA notified Thync that its device is not subject to medical device regulations requiring pre-market clearance or approval.

Even so, they warn:

Do not use Thync on animals, while pregnant, if under the age of 18, or on someone who can not consent to use. If you have a medical device implanted in your body, such as a cochlear implant or pacemaker, or have a metal plate in bone, you shouldn’t use Thync.

So, you’re probably wondering, does it work? I first tried the energy vibe and the sensations are unusual. Too low and I couldn’t feel anything then, as I increased the power, I felt an itching sensation at my temple. 

Placement of the Thync is important; I found in subsequent sessions that moving more towards my template would trigger twitching of my upper eyelid or the muscles along my hairline which was uncomfortable. at the other end, with the contact close behind my ear caused the muscles around my ear to twitch annoyingly while further away the prickling sensation was uncomfortable. You have to experiment to find the Goldilocks zone for both electrodes. 

On both my forehead and behind the ear, if the setting wasn’t high enough the itching turned into an unpleasant burning sensation (a couple of times, it was actually painful) but when I increased the power, I felt something more like rhythmic pressure that wasn’t uncomfortable.

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The Thync app

The Thync app runs through various ramp-ups and ramp-downs as well as different signaling patterns in sessions that are typically 10 minutes (you can extend them as you please) and I can report that I really did feel energized afterwords. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was pretty cool (except for the couple of times when I must have had the puck in the wrong position and felt like I was being stabbed in the head). The truly weird thing was that after the second and subsequent energy sessions, I noticed that my eyesight improved for an hour or so!

Now, relaxation. So far, I’ve tried three relaxation sessions and every time I went to sleep within few seconds! Even when I had planned to read or do something, it was like my brain just shut down. It was a pleasant feeling and I woke up some 20 minutes later feeling refreshed. Now it’s possible that my nearly instant sleep may have been driven by the fact I’ve not been getting enough sleep recently (I involved in a  start-up and you probably have a good idea how those go) so the Thync may have given me an excuse to pass out but it did feel like it contributed to the final feeling of being well-rested. I plan to try it again this evening before (or maybe with) a glass wine and see what happens. 

I know other people have experienced profound relaxation when they tested the Thync. For example, check out the episode Forget Edibles: Getting High on Wearables on the excellent Note to Self podcast; the show’s host, Manoush Zomorodi, tries a Thync relaxation vibe and sounds thoroughly stoned at one point. 

Thync has had a research program going for a long time and it was from trying various patterns of stimulation on test subjects and monitoring their responses that they developed the vibes currently offered. Other vibes are apparently planned for release soon.

The only downside of the Thync system is the cost of the strips which are recommended be replaced after a single use. The strips are currently priced at $19.99 for a pack of five energy or calm strips. At that price, if you were to use one energy vibe and one calm vibe strip every day for a month, you’d be spending about $240 per month! Thync offers a subscription service which discounts significantly but 6 packs or each type the best subscription options would still total $180 per month. 

Obviously, reusing strips is that answer so if you can get three uses out of every strip you could reduce your cost to $70 per month which is far more do-able for most people. Apparently Thync makes loss on the strips so expect to see them re-engineered at some point to make replacing strips far less costly.

Let’s bottom line this: I’m sold. The Thync apparently to works very well for me and for others but, of course, this is a new and evolving technology so your mileage, etc. That said, there’s nothing else like this and it really seems to work without a downside (other than cost). Priced at $199, the Thync gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

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